Occupational Therapy to Improve Improper Pencil Grip in Children

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There are a number of developmental, cognitive and intellectual aberrations that may present with difficulties in learning capabilities and school performance. Healthcare providers suggest early identification and appropriate management or training can lead to absolutely normal or near normal development in children that does not interfere with personal, social and occupational aspects of life in adulthood.

Improper pencil grip is the leading cause of poor handwriting as a result of impaired motor skills. It has been observed that development of pencil grip and good hand-writing is an automatic reflex that develops during the early years of schooling; however, in some children this reflex is significantly impaired. There are a number of parameters that are used by educators and teachers to determine the hand-writing and pencil grip in school- aged children as young as 9 to 10 years. The parameters like use of appropriate spacing between letters and words, accuracy of letter formation, legibility, letter size uniformity, letter slant, and alignment of words on the sheet are used as important tool in the assessment of improper pencil grip in children.

Research conducted by Carter and Synolds suggested that the majority of the children with handwriting abnormalities develop symptoms of learning disabilities in coming years.

Colleen M. Schneck conducted a research study on 60 school-aged children to assess the handwriting skills in accordance with the pencil grip and identified that the children who presented with poor handwriting also performed poorly at pencil gripping test (drawing tasks) and also manifested symptoms of impaired proprioceptive-kinesthetic awareness (impaired hand preference and perception of pencil and paper and distance of pencil from paper).

Research conducted by Benbow suggests that the position of head and distance of the writing surface from eyes plays a very important role in the development of improper grip. He explained that if the actual cause is not identified at an early age, the chances are high that the developmental disabilities or learning deficits may go unnoticed or misdiagnosed, affecting the entire life of the child. Benbow coined the term somesthetic feedback that is a form of visual compensation as the distance between the eyes and writing surface is very little, leading to fatigued visual input.

Research conducted by Laszlo and Bairstow suggested that children are unable to master their writing skills and proprioceptive-kinesthetic ability (the response of joints to the movements performed by fingers) until at least 6 years of age; but various simple tasks can help in early determination of impaired writing skills. For example an inability to color within boundaries or the inability to build blocks suggests a sluggish proprioceptive-kinesthetic capacity.

Laszlo suggests that assessment of such children in second standard is very helpful in reaching to a diagnosis to establish if the child needs therapy or mere lifestyle modification is enough. Occupational therapy is helpful in all such children as the trained therapists can identify and diagnose improper pencil grip reflex earlier than the healthcare providers and advise therapies for treatment.